Prodigy navigated the high-wire, balancing artistic merit
and mainstream visibility with more flair than any electronica
act of the 1990s. Ably defeating the image-unconscious attitude
of most electronic artists in favor of a focus on nominal
frontman Keith Flint, the group crossed over to the mainstream
of pop music with an incendiary live experience that approximated
the original atmosphere of the British rave scene even while
leaning uncomfortably close to arena-rock showmanship and
punk theatrics. True, Flint's spiky hairstyle and numerous
piercings often made for better advertising, but it was producer
Liam Howlett whose studio wizardry launched the Prodigy to
the top of the charts, spinning a web of hard-hitting breakbeat
techno with king-sized hooks and unmissable samples. Despite
electronic music's diversity and quick progression during
the 1990s -- from rave/hardcore to ambient/downtempo and back
again, thanks to the breakbeat/drum'n'bass movement -- Howlett
modified the Prodigy's sound only sparingly; swapping the
rave-whistle effects and ragga samples for metal chords and
chanted vocals proved the only major difference in the band's
evolution from their debut to their worldwide breakthrough
with their third album The Fat of the Land. Even before the
band took its place as the premiere dance act for the alternative
masses, the Prodigy had proved a consistent entry in the British
charts, with over a dozen consecutive singles in the Top 20.
Howlett, the prodigy behind the group's name, was trained
on the piano while growing up in Braintree, Essex. He began
listening to hip-hop in the mid-'80s and later DJed with the
British rap act Cut to Kill before moving on to acid house
later in the decade. The fledgling hardcore breakbeat sound
was perfect for an old hip-hop fan fluent in up-tempo dance
music, and Howlett began producing tracks in his bedroom studio
during 1988. His first release, the EP What Evil Lurks, became
a major mover on the fledgling rave scene in 1990. After Howlett
met up with Keith Flint and Leeroy Thornhill (both Essex natives
as well) in the growing British rave scene, the trio formed
the Prodigy later that year. Howlett's recordings gained the
trio a contract with XL Records, which re-released What Evil
Lurks in February 1991.
Six months later, Howlett issued his second single "Charly,"
built around a sample from a children's public-service announcement.
It hit number one on the British dance charts, then crossed
over to the pop charts, stalling only at number three. (It
wasn't long before a copycat craze saw the launch of rave
takeoffs on Speed Racer, The Magic Roundabout and Sesame Street)
Two additional Prodigy singles, "Everybody in the Place"
and "Fire/Jericho," charted in the U.K. during late
1991 and early 1992.
The Prodigy showed they were no one-anthem wonders in late
1992, with the release of The Prodigy Experience, one of the
first LPs by a rave act. Mixing chunky breakbeats with vocal
samples from dub legend Lee "Scratch" Perry and
the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, it hit the Top Ten and easily
went gold. During 1993, Howlett added a ragga/hip-hop MC named
Maxim Reality (Keeti Palmer) and occupied himself with remix
work for Front 242, Jesus Jones and Art of Noise. He also
released the white-label single "Earthbound" to
fool image-conscious DJs who had written off the Prodigy as
hopelessly commercial. Late 1993 brought the commercial release
of "Earthbound" (as the group's seventh consecutive
Top 20 singles entry, "One Love").
After several months of working on tracks, Howlett issued
the next Prodigy single, "No Good (Start the Dance)."
Despite the fact that the single's hook was a sped-up diva-vocal
tag (an early rave staple), the following album Music for
the Jilted Generation provided a transition for the group,
from piano pieces and rave-signal tracks to more guitar-integrated
singles like "Voodoo People." The album also continued
Prodigy's allegiance to breakbeat drum'n'bass; though the
style had only recently become commercially viable (after
a long gestation period in the dance underground), Howlett
had been incorporating it from the beginning of his career.
Music for the Jilted Generation entered the British charts
at number one and went gold in its first week of release.
The album was also nominated for a Mercury Music Prize, as
one of the best albums of the year.
The Prodigy spent much of 1994 and 1995 touring around the
world, and made a splashy appearance at the 1995 Glastonbury
Festival, proving that electronica could make it in a live
venue. The group had already made a transition from the club/rave
circuit to more traditional rock venues, and the Glastonbury
show set in stone the fact that they were no longer just a
dance group. Flint's newly emerged persona -- the consummate
in-your-face punk showman and master of ceremonies for the
digital-age crowd -- provided a point of reference for rock
critics uncomfortable covering Howlett (whom they saw as a
glorified keyboard player).
The Prodigy's incessant road schedule left little time to
record, but Howlett managed to bring out the next new Prodigy
single in March 1996. "Firestarter" entered the
British charts at number one, though the video was almost
banned due to complaints about arson fixation; many Top of
the Pops viewers also complained that Keith Flint had scared
their children. An unmissable guitar hook and Flint's catcall
vocal antics -- his first on record -- made it a quick worldwide
hit and though "Firestarter" wasn't a major success
in the U.S., its high-profile spot in MTV's Buzz Bin introduced
the Prodigy to many Americans and helped fuel the major-label
push for electronica during the following year (though the
Prodigy did reject collaborative offers from David Bowie,
U2 and Madonna). In the middle of the electronica buzz, the
Prodigy dropped their third album, The Fat of the Land. Despite
rather obvious attempts to court mainstream rock fans (including
several guest-vocalist spots and an L7 cover), the LP entered
both British and American charts at number one, shifting several
million units worldwide. The next Prodigy full-length was
1999's The Dirtchamber Sessions, a mix album helmed by Howlett.
The "Baby's Got a Temper" single -- one Howlett
would later disown -- appeared in 2002 and soon after Leeroy
Thornhill left the band. Maxim and Keith Flint were still
in the band but they weren't to be found on 2004's Always
Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. Instead the album featured guest
spots from Oasis' Liam Gallagher, Kool Keith, Twista, and
actress Juliette Lewis. Flint and Maxim did join Howlett for
a worldwide tour to support the album that launched in October
2004. A year later Their Law: Singles compiled the big hits.--Bio
Courtesy of allmusic.com
For The Jilted Generation
Easily the best Prodigy album out there, and that's really saying
something. All of the tracks are based in energetic hardcore
techno, but there's an incredible amount of variety here. Everything
from metal guitars ("Their Law") to shattering glass
("Break and Enter") is used as a sample, and all are
used effectively. The album doesn't have a single weak track
on it, but the true highlights are the singles. "Poison"
is probably the darkest track the Prodigy's ever done (**including**
"Firestarter" and "Breathe") and it's great.
"One Love" sounds a lot like an older rave track,
but it works really well and doesn't overstay its welcome. "Voodoo
People" uses LIVE guitars and flutes in a breakbeat track
that will get you moving like no other. Then there's my favorite:
"No Good (Start The Dance)" which pastes together
a sped-up soul vocal and a ridiculously intense beat. It'll
leave you gasping for air, but in a good way.
What else can I say? The music's the best that the band's ever
made, and there really isn't a downside. Even the artwork's
a lot of fun. Pick this up as soon as you can - you won't be
disappointed. -- littleoldme
Fat of The Land
An album even the technophobic couldn't ignore, The Fat of the
Land made Prodigy one of the first U.K. rave acts to infiltrate
pop culture. Hard-core hip-hop-derived breakbeats, layers of
unabashed (but creative) sampling, and meaningless shouted lyrics
struck a chord beyond the electronic-music community. The inclusion
of "Firestarter" and "Breathe" (both previously
released hit singles) certainly aided the disc's widespread
success, but it was the ferocity (and controversy) of "Smack
My Bitch Up" that caught the world's attention. Guest Shahin
Bada's Indian vocalizations convey the sense that dance music
has come a long way from "Pump Up the Volume"! "Diesel
Power," featuring Kool Keith, and "Funky Shit"
set a wicked groove; the cover of L7's "Fuel My Fire"
recalls the energy of the Sex Pistols. In fact, the dark aggression
of The Fat of the Land bears closer resemblance to both rap
and punk than the hedonism of techno. Leader Liam Howett simply
gives up 10 solid songs with bombastic production values, transforming
dance music into the art of noise. --Lisa Ladouceur
out The Prodigy Live playing "Firestarter".
you are a Prodigy fan then perhaps you will enjoy one of my CDs
The music is keyboard driven electronica...but not quite as aggressive
as The Prodigy.
Bystander is my alter ego of hardcore funky electronica.
Released in 2000, this CD was featured prominently in MTV
The music infuses elements of Drum-n-Bass,
Techno, Reggae, and Funk
all with a unifying B-3 organ throughout.
Innocent Bystander transcends the space time continuum from
70's funk to the new millennium by perfectly melding the computerized
sounds of the new electronica with the raw human feel of old
school soul and funk.
It's as if Sly Stone and Jimmy Smith
were genetically combined with the Chemical Brothers
and Fat Boy Slim! There is even
a cover of Sly Stone's "Sing A Simple Song". The
result is music for your mind and your ass. It's Medeski,
Martin, and Wood on a futuristic tour around Jupiter.
Orchestra is the latest project from Los Angeles keyboardist
Lee. The music is a cinematic journey into soulful
live electronica with Lee navigating from a Fender
Rhodes electric piano. The CD was released in Sept.
2006 and features Rico Belled on bass, Allen Lightner on percussion,
Dino Soldo on bass clarinet and flutes, Dave Karasony on Drums,
and vocalists Jody Watley, Jeff Robinson, and
The Satellite Orchestra is like a chance meeting of Massive
Attack, Zero-7, and Herbie
" I have always believed that an album is a trip..not
just music to wash the dishes to, but a place to go.. a journey
to take.. an album goes to a place in your soul that maybe you
forgot was there...or maybe you never discovered.. The Satellite
Orchestra is such an album..it's music you feel...make sure
to bring your headphones." -DJ
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